Introduction to Bipolar Disorder

Millions of Americans suffer from Bipolar Disorder, a serious condition that is characterized by extreme changes in mood, from mania to depression.  If not treated properly, this serious mental illness can lead to risky behavior, damaged relationships and careers and sometimes can lead to suicide. 

When a person with Bipolar Disorder experiences an increased restless, energetic, talkative, reckless or powerful period, this is called mania.  During this stage, a person with Bipolar Disorder may engage in lavish spending sprees or impulsive, risky sexual behaviors.  This high mood can, at some point, spiral into irritation, confusion, and anger or feeling trapped.

In a depressive state, a person with bipolar, may experience sadness, sense of worthlessness, loss of energy, loss of pleasure, sleep problems and may cry a lot. 

These patterns of highs and lows vary from person to person.  Some people will experience mania or depression for weeks, months, even years, while others will experience more frequent and dramatic shifts in mood.

Bipolar Disorder is a very complex disease and is difficult to diagnose because there is an entire spectrum of symptoms and mood changes associated with this disease.

Experts do not fully understand what causes Bipolar Disorder, but it is believed that the disorder is genetic, stress adds to the disease and some evidence suggests an environmental factor.  A problem with balance of neurotransmitters in the brain is also believed to be a cause of Bipolar Disorder.

The best treatment for Bipolar Disorder is a combination of mood-stabilizing medications and therapy.  The most common mood-stabilizing medication that is prescribed for Bipolar Disorder is Lithium and is oftentimes prescribed in conjunction with antidepressants.  Therapy is very important in the treatment of this disorder because it helps patients understand and accept responsibility for their actions as well as helps to teach more effective ways of handling these mood swings in the future.  A therapist will also make sure the patient continues to take all medication as prescribed.

It is important that people with Bipolar Disorder maintain a calm environment, keep regular activities, get adequate sleep and avoid excessive stimulation these activities can make symptoms worse.

Bipolar Disorder should not be dealt with alone.  If you or someone you know may have Bipolar Disorder, seek medical advice from a therapist right away to get a proper diagnosis and begin treatment as soon as possible.  A person that suffers with Bipolar Disorder will need the help and support from family and friends as well as their therapist.